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Authors: Felix R. Savage

Tags: #Sci Fi & Fantasy, #Space Opera, #High Tech, #science fiction space opera thriller adventure

The Callisto Gambit





Felix R. Savage



Copyright © 2016 by Felix R. Savage


The right to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by Felix R. Savage. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author.


First published in the United States of America in 2016 by Knights Hill Publishing.


Cover art by Tom Edwards

Interior layout by Felix R. Savage




Keep Off The Grass
(short origin story)

(prequel novella)


The Elfrida Goto Trilogy

1. The Galapagos Incident

2. The Vesta Conspiracy

3. The Mercury Rebellion


A Very Merry Zero-Gravity Christmas
(short story)


The Solarian War Trilogy

1. The Luna Deception

2. The Phobos Maneuver

3. The Mars Shock


The Callisto Gambit



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Six months before the fall of Mars …


“I hate this,” John Mendoza said. Kiyoshi stood beside him on the quarterdeck of the old Startractor, watching the ship’s former occupants tumble into space.

Two men, two women, and two preteen boys. They were all wearing EVA suits. Kiyoshi wasn’t a murderer. He just needed their ship.

“They stole it in the first place, so, no need to feel guilty about taking it off them,” he told Mendoza. “C’mon, let’s get off this truck.”

They exited the airlock and flew back towards Kiyoshi’s own ship, the
Behind them, the Startractor’s twin hab modules rotated slowly around its spine. Kiyoshi’s boarding party milled at the drive end of the ship.

The sun was a bright pin stuck into the blackness of the asteroid belt. A cloud of rock fragments drifted in front of it, blocking its glare, and allowing the stars to shine out. These were pieces of the asteroid that Kiyoshi and his people had called home for the last four years, 99984 Ravilious.

Kiyoshi’s boss had blown it up. Destroyed everything they had built. And for what, huh? For

To the left of the fragments, a dotted wheel of light spun lazily. Although it appeared far away, it was just on the other side of the rubble cloud. It was another ship, built from the raw materials of 99984 Ravilious—half-built, or maybe three-quarters; the boss-man said it was finished, but he’d been saying that for weeks, and new engineering issues kept cropping up. Its name was
No irony there, no sense of history. Just an ego the size of freaking Jupiter.

Kiyoshi could no longer see the six people he’d tossed into space. He and Mendoza were halfway back to the
when Jun radioed him. “They picked them up.”


“The previous occupants.”

“No, who picked them up?”

“I couldn’t see for sure. Might’ve been Brian. Anyway, they took them to the

Kiyoshi scowled at the distant wheel of light. Smaller specks buzzed around it. One of them might have been the Dumptruck that Brian O’Shaughnessy, the boss’s thug-in-chief, often rode over here to insolently observe Kiyoshi and his people. Brian and Kiyoshi had both worked for the boss-man for years. The difference was that Brian believed in the
project, and Kiyoshi didn’t. When Kiyoshi begged off from the entire insane business, Brian had gleefully stepped into his position as second-in-command.

Jun drew a red circle around the largest speck of light on Kiyoshi’s faceplate. “That’s the
Now You See It,
a quad-module Ironcamel. It just arrived from Ceres with a bunch of stuff for the suicide mission.” This was how Kiyoshi and Jun referred to the
project. “I think some new recruits also arrived. So they’ll be busy over there for a while.”

“We got lucky,” Kiyoshi said.


If the
Now You See It
had not shown up at the same time as the Startractor, there was no way Kiyoshi and Jun would have been able to capture the smaller ship. The boss-man would have pounced on it himself. He had a track record in that respect.

Kiyoshi directed a quick prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit for this stroke of luck. Out loud, he said. “All the same, we’d better move fast.”


Kiyoshi juiced his mobility pack. With Mendoza trailing behind, he headed for the
command airlock. He keyed in the combination, spoke today’s password for the voiceprint lock, and finally inserted a keycard in the physical lock he’d installed after Brian came buzzing around one too many times.

Maybe he was paranoid. Scratch that, he
paranoid. But the extra security helped him sleep at night. The
was the last home they had, and he wasn’t losing it.

They entered a world very different from the shabby plastisteel confines of the Startractor. The
was a hundred years old, in the same sense as certain shrines in Japan had been a thousand years old. Its existence dated back to the 2190s, but nearly every physical component of the ship had been replaced since. The ops module was the exception. Kiyoshi and Mendoza glided through linked caves panelled with real wood that had once been real trees growing in the mountains of Honshu. Right now the caves were
packed like sushi in a box, with stuff—and people. This many human beings had not lived on the
since the ship first carried Kiyoshi’s ancestors from Earth to an asteroid called 11073 Galapagos.

These people were the descendants of those colonists. They were the last Japanese in the universe, apart from their cousins on Ceres.

They were Kiyoshi’s people. They were Galapajin.

And they were packing.

Getting ready to move,

“Hurry up,” he told them. “We need to get this done while the boss is looking the other way.”

A young mother looked up in despair from a suitcase whose contents kept floating out. “Ever heard of advance warning, Yonezawa-san?”

“I didn’t know before today that we were going to get another ship to move into.” Kiyoshi grabbed a floating set of child-sized stabilizer braces and stuffed them into the suitcase. Then flew on, dodging a bevy of little girls who were playing at nuns in some beautiful old wimples that had turned up. For the kids, this chaos was a holiday.

Tense faces greeted him on the bridge. Kiyoshi flew to his throne. It wasn’t really a throne, just the captain’s workstation, but he’d put in a custom couch and jacked it up so he could lounge on it in a commanding fashion. Stirrups made this possible even in zero-gee. He looked around at his inner circle. “Well, this is it. Starting today, we’ll be on our own.”

He wished they looked more enthusiastic. Their murmurs of
didn’t imply much confidence in his leadership. The problem was two-fold: these men and women had either grown up with him, if they were his generation, or had been his parents’ friends, if they were older. They still saw him as the kid who used to ditch school to get off his face on homebrewed
What’s more, they didn’t believe in any of his exploits in the inner system, which they had heard about but not seen for themselves. They’d been stuck here the whole time.

And now he was going to be stuck here with them.

The thought terrified him a bit.

He put a brave face on it, describing how they were going to fortify the Startractor and turn it into a lovely home. It would be a bit of a squeeze, he couldn’t deny that. Compared to the
the Startractor’s passenger and command modules, combined, offered only 80,000 cubic meters of living space, compared to the
capacious 260,000. But a person only really
200 m3 of space, he reminded them.

The meeting wandered off into a discussion of the feasibility of tethering Bigelows—inflatable habitats—in the Startractor’s cargo bays. They had several 20-person Bigelows on hand, and every little bit of extra living space would help. The engineers got into an argument about the right kind of connectors to use for the power and water lines. The Galapajin were all about the technical details. Take care of the engineering and God would take care of the rest. It was a good way of life, but sometimes their indifference to the big picture drove him insane.

He lost patience and ordered them all out. “Go and make sure people are keeping their luggage within reasonable limits. It’s gonna take long enough to transship all the crap we need, without taking crap we

Mendoza stayed behind on the bridge. So did Father Thomas Lynch. Father Tom was an Afro-Irish Jesuit who ministered to the Irish, Goan, and Amazonian Catholic contingents aboard the
. He had a foot in both camps, but Kiyoshi trusted him.

Mendoza thrust his fists in the air. “I know maybe I shouldn’t say this … but I am
to be getting out of here.”

“No, you shouldn’t say it,” Father Tom said dryly.

“You know what I mean.” Mendoza slapped Kiyoshi’s workstation with, Kiyoshi thought, a somewhat proprietorial manner. “Hope I’m gonna be able to fly this thing,” he joked.

“Don’t worry, all you’ll have to do is water the plants,” Jun said, entering the bridge from the data center.

Jun wore his usual cassock over muddy boots, suggesting that he had been in the garden. He floated like a normal person. Jun, however, was not a normal person. He was an artificial super-intelligence, created accidentally by Kiyoshi a few years back, and still growing. What they saw now was an illusion projected on their retinal implants—or interface contacts in the case of Mendoza and Father Tom, who did not have BCIs. They were all used to interacting with the projection as if it was human. The one thing you couldn’t do was touch it, or the illusion would be spoiled.

Jun settled into the astrogator’s couch. Delta-V calculations flickered across the screens. “We should be able to reach Earth in less than a month.”

Mendoza reminded him with a touch of anxiety, “Elfrida’s on Eureka Station. Halfway to Mars.”

Eureka Station was a formerly secret Star Force base on a Mars trojan asteroid. The UN was now using it as a rear staging area to attack the PLAN’s stronghold on Mars.

“Of course,” Jun said. “I was speaking in general.”

“And of course,” Mendoza rehearsed, “we’ll have to cross Earth’s orbit to reach Eureka Station, given where the planets are at the moment.” He nodded, and ran his hands through his short black hair. “Of course.”

Kiyoshi almost felt sorry for the poor sap. He honestly believed they were going to risk the
on a voyage to Eureka Station to pick up his girlfriend. In the middle of a war.

“I’m a bit nervous,” Mendoza apologized.

Maybe he did have an inkling that there was more to it.

“I keep wondering, what if we have nothing to say to each other? What if we’ve grown apart?”

Or, not.

Kiyoshi had half a dozen cigarettes tethered to the arms of his throne, with different mixes loaded. He stuck one in his mouth and started to disconnect the others to take with him. Through a cloud of vapor, he subvocalized to Jun,
~When are you going to tell him the truth?

Jun responded, for his ears only, “I haven’t decided yet.” His back was still turned; he was gesturing at the astrogation screens, as if busy with pre-flight checks. But there was a hint of tension in the set of his head. You had to assume that every little nuance of his self-presentation was calculated, because it was literally the product of a calculation. But you also had to assume that he made those particular calculations, showed Kiyoshi these glimpses of indecision and vulnerability, because he was really feeling that way.

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